Over 2 million Indian students study in US presently, and talking about the community’s innumerable contributions brings forward one of the many important flavors of US-India relationships. On June 21st I had a chance to be 1 out of 11 research scholars and scientists of Indian origin invited to the National Science Foundation for the event Skilling. We had the opportunity to showcase our research in front of Dr. Jill Biden, FLOTUS, and PM Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India during his historic state visit to the United States. I was the only Indian undergraduate invited to the event among fellows and postdocs, and this event opened the window for us to collaborate with and learn from each other. All the researchers talked about their research areas, areas for collaboration between US and India, how we as scientists are paving the way for such collaborations, and how our research projects are of mutual importance to both countries.
Involving students like us to participate in this conversation shows their genuine commitment to making the environment even more conducive for collaboration and knowledge transfer. My project was about early diagnosis and prevention of colorectal cancer using biomarker detection and pathway inhibition. This project is being done under Dr. Subroto Chatterjee at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I was able to talk about the state-of-the-art facilities at Hopkins that make our work possible like intravital imaging allowing us to see individual cells in a tumor while they are in their natural habitation, PET MRI, modeling to help us predict disease and its outcomes, etc. My emphasis was also on Hopkins’ institution-wide collaborations that are allowing us to devise our capable drug delivery mechanisms presently.
Both India and US have high youth populations and CRC prevalence is rising among the youth as per latest studies, it is no longer just found in older adults. The present standard for diagnosis includes a colonoscopy, which is invasive and has several complications associated with it like bleeding, perforations, etc. Our method being non-invasive would allow for early detection as it can find biomarkers in cells and plasma, increasing survival chances. We are also able to score cancer cells into different tumor stages, allowing better therapeutic outcomes. I was able to talk about the resources and network that Hopkins provided me that has culminated in these outcomes.
We met various dignitaries like US Ambassador in India, NSF Director Seturaman Panchanatan, NOAA Director, Director of Science and Technology Dr. Dhananjay, Director of Economic Wing Dr. Ravi, etc. I was able to share my research with them and it was incredible to hear their insight and appreciations.
Dr. Biden and PM Modi address the gathering later where we were seated in the first row. PM Modi talked about such research collaborations and the education and workforce emphasis both countries have. Engaging with them was very inspiring and encouraging. Both honorable people came with their respective cabinets and we met and spoke to all their ministers who were very motivating. All the people presenting on both sides had done revolutionary work in their field and being in their company and hearing them applaud our work was a truly exhilarating experience. The NSF scientists and researchers were also captivated by our presentation, and I was glad we were able to showcase our research capabilities.
One of the media coverages is here, I speak at 1:48 mins https://aninews.in/videos/world/inspiring-scholars-after-attending-nsf-interactive-session-with-pm-modi-us-first-lady-jill-biden/